Woodstock 50’s Latest (and Last?) Hail Mary: A Venue Outside Baltimore

Equidistant to Washington D.C., Merriweather Post Pavilion offers solutions to some of the beleaguered festival's logistical issues.

Woodstock co-producer and co-founder, Michael Lang, participates in the Woodstock 50 lineup announcement at Electric Lady Studios, in New YorkWoodstock 50 Lineup Announcement, New York, USA - 19 Mar 2019
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Sh

Woodstock 50’s Michael Lang just won’t give up on a site for his troubled festival, which was due to take place at Watkins Glen International Speedway in upstate New York Aug. 16 to 18. Since its announcement in January, the event has been dogged by financial and organizational problems, and tickets never went on sale.

Now, sources tell Variety, Lang has been in talks with Seth Hurwitz, who runs Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club, to bring a scaled-down version of Woodstock 50 to the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, about 20 miles outside of Baltimore and equidistant to Washington, D.C. Hurwitz’s I.M.P. operates Merriweather Post, which has a weekday capacity of 20,000-capacity but can go up to 32,500 for a weekend show.

Both a roofed venue with open air options, including a second stage that can be used for performances, having the festival there would solve some key issues including food, beverage and parking in addition to having proper bathroom facilities and security options.

It’s not clear whether the artists due to perform at Woodstock 50 would agree to the venue change. When it was proposed earlier to move the concert to the parking lot outside of Citi Field, some agents argued that they were not contracted to do a New York City area show.

Another idea being considered is to pivot to a benefit show, donating proceeds from ticket sales to charities. According to Bloomberg, which cites documents it obtained, the event would be called “Woodstock 50 Washington” and ticket prices would range from $129 to $595 for daily access to the grounds.

Says one insider of the Merriweather Post option: “The bands won’t do it. They were contracted to play a show in Watkins Glen.” A second source backs up this assertion noting that many of the top-drawing artists have already been paid and are simply waiting for the festival to cancel itself so they can keep their fees.

But agents for those acts are taking a more cautious approach, evaluating each development as it comes for the most prudent action. “There are a series of questions that need to be answered and then it will be each client’s decision as to whether they want to play,” says another insider.

Woodstock’s last application to hold its event at Vernon Downs in the town of Vernon, New York was denied unanimously on July 11 and again upon re-submission.

Woodstock 50 is scheduled to feature a blockbuster lineup including Jay-Z, Dead & Co., Miley Cyrus and many others. Its original financial backer, Dentsu Aegis, pulled out in May; Watkins Glen International speedway, followed last month; Virgin Produced, which came aboard in an advisory capacity to help “resurrect” the festival, signed off from the project on July 16 citing that it had “officially concluded its consulting role.”

Agents and managers who have been monitoring and managing the twists and turns of the Woodstock 50 saga contend that time was always the enemy. And it is running out quickly. 

Update: In an interview with Pollstar, Hurwitz said hosting Woodstock at Merriweather “is still being talked about,” but emphasizes that his “role is merely as the venue.” Asked if there was a potential issue with artist contracts following a venue change, Hurwitz answered: “That’s none of my business, I have no opinion. It’s not anything I’m going to get involved in. … We’d have to work something out with the show that’s there and I don’t want to talk to them about it unless this is real. So I’m just waiting to see if it’s real. …  I’d want to speak to agents and make sure their artists are doing it.”